Right after the meeting, we drove another several miles to attend a missionary "farewell" for a member of Dearie's extended family leaving to serve in the Phillippines. Because of the time conflict with our own home ward meetings, we stayed for the whole three-hour block (Sacrament, Sunday School and Priesthood/Relief Society) at the missionary's ward, which happens to be our ward in the late nineties and so we still know some of the members. Yet again it was another inspiring program and the missionary gave a great talk on repentance.
Our Sunday School class (Samoan) was awesome. The teacher was well prepared - at least in recounting and rehashing the details, events and names of people in the lesson, which was on the Book of Mormon. Discussions were minimal while the older folks remained the usual so-called "memorizers."
At one point during the lesson the teacher asked the class to come up with a certain profound doctrine by a noted character in the assigned chapters. Immediately I remembered one in particular that was kind of unique to this part of the Book of Mormon and so muttering under my breath, I said Amulek. It turned out that the teacher had a different one in mind which was the verse before the one of which I was thinking. The teacher then told one of the class members to read the verse he wanted (Helaman 5: 9):
O remember, remember, my sons, the words which king Benjamin spake unto his people; yea, remember that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who shall come; yea, remember that he cometh to redeem the world. (Emphasis mine)Again, I thought otherwise; I had hoped it was verse 10. While verse 9 (above) is common knowledge and an unambiguous doctrine across the Christian world, verse 10 demystifies and expounds on one of the more controversial and confusing beliefs of most Christian churches about the role of Christ's atoning sacrifice. In other words, no Christian would doubt the gist of verse 9. The redeeming part, however, is controversial among some churches. A part of what I'm referring to is found in Matthew 1:21 - underlined:
"And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins,"
While the Bible introduces the more common part of the dogma, the Book of Mormon gives the elucidation (verse 10 below), hence making the Book of Mormon a more authoritative text on the issue. Here:
And remember also the words [of] Amulek ...for he said unto [Zeezrom] that the Lord surely should come to redeem his people, but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins.Personally, therefore, the fact that some Christians believe differently about the specific nature of Christ's Atonement than its generality in verse 9, verse 10 gives a more "profound" and concise elaboration and complement that "[Christ] should not come to redeem [us] in [our] sins, but to redeem [us] from [our] sins. Besides the obvious semantics issue, some Christian sects are at odds in the interpretation of the principle. Repentance, which is viewed/interpreted differently by Chistians, is the underlying principle in the above doctrine.
Albert Barnes, a deceased but renowned commentator on the Bible, and a pastor of the Presbyterian Church, gives this commentary on Matthew 1:21:
From their sins - This was the great business of Jesus in coming and dying. It was not to save people in their sins, but from their sins. Sinners could not be happy in heaven. It would be a place of wretchedness to the guilty. The design of Jesus was, therefore, to save them from sin;Could Barnes have read the Book of Mormon? ... LOL!
Our Priesthood class was equally if not more instructive.
The lesson was based on "The why of priesthood service," a talk by President Uchtdorf (2nd Counselor in First Presidency). Despite the initial seeming confusion of the class caused by the literal translation of "why" to "aisea", everyone accepted the literal translation with a grain of masima while using their own substitutes and alternatives.
The teacher continued to talk about the importance of helping those under our stewardship, especially families that we teach and visit on a monthly basis. Sound familiar? Yes. And the familiarity certainly seemed to have cast a spell of boredom and - as the expression goes - contempt among members of the class. The "same ol', same ol'" demeanor and mood percolated early. So half way through the lesson, it was just the teacher talking in general terms while class members, mostly older men, had their heads down (either half listening or half asleep - typical high priest class ...).
Personally I dislike lessons that are boring and non-interactive. So I decided to break the silence (at the risk of hushed accusations and innuendo while as a "stranger" and newcomer in the group...lol!) and I said this (in Samoan):
"We as priesthood holders should always seek the help of the Spirit in fulfilling priesthood service. For one thing, some of us when it comes to helping others, we not only go out of our way, but we also do it at the expense or in the neglect of others, our immediate families for example. Conversely, we should not try to use our duty and responsibility to family as excuse in neglecting or dereliction of our gospel and priesthood duties and responsibilities. We need to find a balance."
I then paraphrased Elder Dallin H. Oaks (Quorum of the Twelve) who said we should be careful because our strengths can become our downfall. Specifically, he said:
Could the fulfillment of fundamental Christian obligation be carried to excess? I believe it can. I have seen cases in which persons fulfilled that duty to such an extent that they impoverished their own families by expending resources of property or time that were needed for family members. "Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall" - BYU Fireside Address, 1992I further suggested in my comment that as a solution, we need to "see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength." (Mosiah 4:27)
Funny though that at home after church, I looked up and read Uchtdorf's "The why of priesthood service," talk for the first time and here's what he cautioned the priesthood while fulfilling priesthood service:
... the fact that something is good is not always reason to expend time and resources on it. Our activities, initiatives, and plans should be inspired by and grounded upon the why of our priesthood service and not by any flashy trend or interest of the moment .... Otherwise, they can distract our efforts, dilute our energy and get us caught up in our own hobbies, spiritual or temporal, that are not at the center of discipleship. Follow the promptings of he Spirit....Both Elders Oaks and Uchtdorf are in agreement on the matter.
Please note that stinginess and/or avarice are not promoted in this post. Instead, it is wisdom, inspiration, judgment and following the Spirit that are recommended.
And that was a typical if not near typical Sunday in my corner of the globe. Sunday is one of my favorite days of the week, a day of learning more about the gospel and for spiritual renewal.